I Feel Cream
Label: XL Records
The closest Peaches, that gender-bending, father-fucking sexually obsessed electro-queen, has come to entering the popular consciousness is the use of her absurd breakthrough hit “Fuck the Pain Away” in Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. A despondent and lonely Bill Murray finds himself in a strip club that’s doing a lousy job of cheering him up, while Japanese dancers gyrate robotically to Peaches’ banal delivery of the line (just about everyone can recite) “Suckin’ on my titties/ Calling me all the time, Blondie…” in her unaffected Northern American voice. “Fuck the Pain Away” remains her best song, a bizarre jam that name-checks female rock legends in one breath and then contraceptive methods in the next, before recommending listeners “stay in school/ ’cause it’s the best.”
Nothing will ever replicate the acerbic shock that song imparts upon first listen; Peaches’ material relies largely upon a gag and like watching any sitcom, when you know a gag is coming, you lose interest and will likely change the channel. Her fourth record as Peaches (she released one as Merril Nisker in 1995), I Feel Cream falls flat in largely the same way her records released since “Fuck the Pain Away” have also fallen flat. The aforementioned gag is a bluntness of sexual expression and lack of emotion when expressing it that aren’t typical of female pop stars. Though, when Peaches recites “Hair in a mullet/ You know you gotta love it/ So sexual/ So conceptual” from the opening song “Serpentine,” you can’t help but think that you’ve heard the joke before. Beck, in fact, was using some of the same sexual hilarity on his excellent Midnite Vultures, but the reason why songs like “Sexx Laws” or “Nicotine & Gravy” worked was because this pseudo-Prince loverman schtick was contained to one inspired album and not a catalog of records mining the same, cheap-o electro territory.
Now that this conceptual stuff is all out of the way, how is I Feel Cream as a pop record? To his credit as a producer, expert knob-twiddler James Ford, of Simian Mobile Disco, captured a record that sounds as good as the material could. “Serpentine,” “Billionaire” and “Mommy Complex” are the alternately laconic and sexually aggressive talk-raps one expects from Ms. Nisker and as a result, are jokes we’ve heard before. Yet amateur DJs shouldn’t disregard the power of “Serpentine”‘s bass. It’s on the outright pop songs where things get interesting, such as the title track, an expansive house jam that recalls Madonna’s “Bedtime Story.” Peaches’ vocals are airy and long sustained while she sings about falling for whomever’s touching her thigh, while electronics grind on and blurt out a propulsive riff. Immediately following is “Trick or Treat,” another weirdo rap where she suggests you “lick [her] crow’s feet” before a true earworm of a chorus elevates it to an album highlight. “Show Stopper” follows, in a sort of latter-day Nine Inch Nails rock vein; it’s not that great of a track but its synthesized low end is pretty satisfying given the posturing that occurs over much of the rest of the record.
“Take You On” finishes out the record, with Peaches sizing up the listener: “I’ll take you on…/ I’ll take YOU on…” It sounds like someone saying: “stop me if you’ve heard this one before,” so one can’t blame the listener for tuning out halfway through. Trouble is, Peaches picks this song, the last one, for any sort of build to a climax. One by one, percussion tracks add up into a hypnotic peak but by this point, you’ve already written the record off, left to sit through its final moments like a depressed, washed-up actor in a Southeast Asia strip club.
by Chris Middleman